Preparing for our enhanced future

Abstract

(forthcoming) Journal of Medical Licensure and Discipline. Rapid advances in human genetics raise the prospect that one day we may be able to develop genetic enhancements to promote a diverse range of phenotypes (e.g. health, intelligence, behaviour, etc.). Perhaps the biggest challenge that genetic enhancements pose for medical practitioners is that they will compel us to re-think a good deal of the conventional wisdom of the status quo. Radical enhancements are likely to have this affect for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the status quo is premised (at least in large part) on a sharp distinction between treatment and enhancement; a distinction that at least some genetic enhancements will call into question. Secondly, the prospect of radical enhancements requires us to keep an open mind concerning how we conceive of the harm of non-intervention (i.e. the harm of the status quo). And thirdly, some enhancements might compromise the preservation of personal identity. All of these issues may have important consequences for State Medical Boards, ranging from the way we view the aspiration to prevent harm and ensure reasonable standards of care, to malpractice, continuing competency and medical specialization.

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Colin Farrelly
Queen's University

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